Composting is an old technology. It can add value to manure and provide benefits to soil. Compost is preferred by many over raw manure for several reasons, including reduced odor, increased residence time in the soil, and increased microorganisms. Reducing odor of manure is important to applicators, especially those near urban areas.

Organic matter, such as manure, improves soil health. It can increase the soil's capacity to retain nutrients and water. It can also increase the ability of water to infiltrate the soil surface. Because compost has increased residence time in the soil and increased microorganisms over raw manure, its benefits to soil health are greater.

However, the composting process takes time, water, and manpower. These requirements, of course, increase the cost. Therefore, it is not a strategy for everyone.

New! Martin, E. Application of Animal Manure/Compost in an Irrigated Oat/Corn Rotation (6 slides/page PDF file, 497KB); Full sized PDF file, 2.2MB; Accompanying Paper, 387KB 2003 ASAE Annual International Meeting, Las Vegas, Nevada. July 30, 2003

New! Martin, E. and K.A. Tanksley Application of Animal Manure/Compost in an Irrigated Alfalfa Production System (6 slides/page PDF file, 657KB); Full sized PDF file, 1.8MB; Accompanying Paper, 127KB 2003 ASAE Annual International Meeting, Las Vegas, Nevada. July 30, 2003

The links and contacts below are starting points for anyone interested in starting a compost program.

Sustainable Farming Connection - links on composting
Compost Education and Resources for Western Agriculture this site is part of an ongoing project designed to provide agricultural professionals with the latest information on composting and compost use. (University of Idaho)
Composted Manure Used Along Roadways Controls Erosion - used in Connecticut and Texas (NRCS/USDA)
Publications from Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences
Composting Dairy Manure for the Commercial Markets - producer written Core 4 document
U.S. Composting Council - USCC is a non profit (501.c.6) national organization (society for composters)
2001 Innovative Uses of Animal Manure & Biosolids Symposium Proceedings - (not-for-profit alliance of the Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies (AMSA), Water Environment Federation (WEF), and EPA)
On Farm Composting Project - (Agua Fria - New River Natural Resource Conservation District)
Composting Dead Poultry
- Virginia Cooperative Extension

Acronyms and selected definitions

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